View Full Version : AutoCAD vs Rhino vs DesignCAD, and DXF to G-code converters

Thu 12 April 2007, 11:05
Hi all

As you might realize I'm Gerald_d's son, Sean

I'm currently using CAD to draw my tool paths plus layout the profiles on the board/material. Then I use Vector to select my start position on the cutting job, connect all profiles with a safe height, then create code for my CNC machines. I'm wondering if there are guys that use Rhino or Cobalt CAD to prepare cutting files? What processes do you go through to make code?

I'm trying to better my method to try save time for me and my customers. Is there a program that will make the g code and make out job cards for my staff? I also would like to be able to open and use other format other than dxf or dwg.

Thu 12 April 2007, 12:09
Hi Sean, fancy meeting you here! Welcome!

Just to make it clear for everyone else, Sean runs his own business www.camcraftsa.com (http://www.camcraftsa.com) fairly close to my current office. We mostly try to stay out of each other's hair as I have another company to run. Sean is the custodian of the big MechMate as well as a smaller ShopBot that has a MechMate gantry. His company has grown totally independent of the old man since it started in Jan 2001.

The CAD and VectorCAM date from the beginning, now he is looking for a more modern approach to running a job shop.

David Rosenbleeth
Thu 12 April 2007, 16:33
All right Gerald-Stop preening and let him do his thing!!!
Sean: The right software depends on what you are trying to cut out. Although the "old man" and I may disagree on this, If you are doing basic parts cut outs from sheets you can import many drawing types (dxf's dwg's AI's, etc) into the Artcam version of Part Wizard that exports g-code and toolpath there, and if you need to go more sophisticated in your toolpathing Artcam Insignia will do that. Both of them have the limitation of not doing 2.5D work except for a limited number of fonts. For truly sophisticated sculpture and "3-d" work Artcam Pro is the best there is, but unless you are going to use the design tools that you are paying a steep price for it is too much money. Lots of guys have appreciated greatly the tools in the V-carve line of software for an extremely reasonable price. All of the above include drawing, import, and cam output tools to, theoretically, operate as a stand alone package, however most of us end up using a combination of ingredients to accomplish many tasks. For example, the furniture I produce is fully drawn in a cad program (in our case it is autocad although many of the much less expensive versions, such as design cad are used by many successful shops)and the lines of the parts I want to cut out are imported into Partwizard by my floor "Van" and then cut out. This tells you nothing about Rhino Cad simply since the only direct knowledge I have of it is a friend who stopped using it forever once he bought Artcam Pro, but then he specializes in "3-d" carvings.


Sean Dorrington
Fri 13 April 2007, 00:39

Ok. If I wanted 10 discs from you, how would you go about it?

My process would be:

Layout discs on board, draw offsets for tool path and set depth eg -3 for 3mm MDF, save as a dxf and open it in Vector. Select the discs in order to which I want them cut. Then use 'connect at z' command that will automatically insert, connect all tool paths at safe height. Then generate code.

Why I'm thinking of using Rhino Cad is because it?s half the price of AutoCAD, I would also be able to import a greater selection of file types, maybe when I?m bored make 3d models, and maybe RhinoCAM might have some uses to.

You mentioned importing AI into artcam. Do you use artcam to convert to a dxf then rework it in AutoCAD?

Fri 13 April 2007, 00:54
If you don't like the price of AutoCAD, I don't think you are going to like ArtCam either. Have you checked how the other CNC router guys around Cape Town do it? Or even the laser and plasma guys if you mostly work 2D?

David Rosenbleeth
Fri 13 April 2007, 05:33
If I am cutting something as straightforward as 10 round (or oval or rectangular shapes) I will do it all in Part Wizard. Place 1 disc, block copy, toolpath using "machine outside vectors", save as code, open operating software, cut. The complete toolpath is generating through a vector, bit type, material spec, etc. checklist menu that includes the z settings, speed of cut, and a return home at safe z height when you are done. If you are using SB code on the old machine and g code on the new one than you can save the artwork and generate either or both operating codes.
RE: AI to DXF through Artcam. That is doable. The AI files Artcam Pro recognizes are typically an older version and it is usually better to use EPS. Exporting Vectors as DXF's is immediate and easy.
With a very low priced cad program such as Design Cad and Artcam Insignia E you can do all the parts cutout work in the world with easy toolpathing, basic design tools, and lettering within your Cad/cam package.

Evan Curtis
Fri 13 April 2007, 14:25
TurboCAD is much less expensive than AutoCad, and the learning curve isn't as steep. How ever I have to admit I don't use it any more. I do most of my drawings in either Autocad or in Inventor(another AutoDesk product). SheetCam (actually I think the "old man" turned me onto it) is a great inexpensive 2.5 CAM program. It's being upgraded all the time and the upgrades are free. As to a program that will generate "job cards" or cut sheets or assembly sheets, I don't know of any programs other than high end cabinet programs that do this. Good Luck

Fri 13 April 2007, 16:13
Alibre Express, Free, and a great program.

This is what I use, and no compliants so far.

Sean Dorrington
Sun 15 April 2007, 03:55
Thanks guys. Keep sending your methods. I need to find time to try and test these them though.

Sean Dorrington
Sun 15 April 2007, 04:06
Lets change the profiles to mirror frames with 5x5mm rebates on 16mm MDF. And lets make them into 4 different sizes on 1 board.

How would you guys prepare your code. My method is always the same.

I must say i know AutoCAD rather well, its just their pricing is over the top for multi users.

Has any one used Cobalt yet?

ralph hampton
Sun 15 April 2007, 07:22
Personally I work solely in Autocad (full). I draw, offset toolpaths, and have written a whole set of autolisp files that organise polylines and output sbp files. For G code there is Tahlcam, on which I based my methods.
Doesn't do it all for you, but as a user of Acad, it is dead quick, and so far totally accurate. Plus I can tweek/add new features as I go.

Pierre GRAND
Sun 15 April 2007, 15:01
An answer not completely linked with the purpose of this chapter....an artcam pro version 8.0 at 50$ sold on this store ?? It seems to be legal...!


David Rosenbleeth
Sun 15 April 2007, 16:37
This is a crack site and it is NOT legal.

Pierre GRAND
Sun 15 April 2007, 16:48
Thanks for your answer !!
Back to Vectric softwares...legally!!.

David Rosenbleeth
Sun 15 April 2007, 17:00
You're welcome-I have a friend who messes with this kind of thing all the time-He told me that when you download from them there is a chance that they will enter your computer with the download and wreak havoc for "fun". Just going on their sites can be dangerous.
Best if you delete the link.

Sean Dorrington
Sun 15 April 2007, 23:33

It seems to be that I'm on the right path by using AutoCAD. Maybe I must just bite the bullet and buy the new LT and annual subscription. Only problem is I'm wanting to employ an assistant which means I have to buy a second full package of LT and subs. Going to burn the pocket!

I must compare ARTcam, sheet cam, Vector and parts wizard. I don't do 3D modelling due to lack of software skill but I have mastered 2.5D. I have considered in making foam blanks for surf boards etc. especially when im basically on the tip of Africa!

Out of interest what would AutoCAD 2008 LT cost in the States and in the UK? I have friends travelling to and from there.

Dick van Randen
Tue 17 April 2007, 22:28
Take a look at

I have been using the Intellicad product for two years now, and find it more than adequate. Uses the same keyboard/mouse interface as Autocad , covers drawing formats from r12 upto the latest Dwg formats and supports VBA and LISP. Have tried other cad programs but find the combination of keyboard and mouse commands to handy to give up. The full CADopia version (this is not a lite version of auto cad)is about 1/5th the cost of full AutoCad.

Sean Dorrington
Wed 18 April 2007, 12:03
thanks guys

My mind has been off software the last 2 days. Just installed a Vacuum table on big Mechmate.


may it solve many problems!!!!

Steven Horrocks
Sat 28 April 2007, 12:04

Volvo View Express which can be downloaded for free is good

Volo View lets you open, view, mark up, measure, print, and plot AutoCAD files. Whether your data is on a network or on the Web, you can use Volo View without installing AutoCAD. You also can view Autodesk® Mechanical Desktop® 4.0 and AutoCAD Architectural Desktop? 2.0 files. (To view these files, you must download object enablers).

Volo View lets you open the following types of AutoCAD files for viewing and markup.

DWG (the standard format for saving vector graphics from within AutoCAD)

DXF? (an ASCII or binary version of an AutoCAD file)

DWF (a highly compressed format created from a DWG file)

You also can view and mark up raster images.

Inventor Files
Volo View lets you open, view, mark up, measure, and print the following types of Inventor 5 files.

IPT, or part file (stores a design component)

IAM, or assembly file (stores component relationships)

IDW, or drawing file (stores an Inventor drawing)

Sun 20 May 2007, 11:22
If you have a full copy of AutoCAD 2002 or newer, I have a macro that exports Mach3 compatible g-code from within AutoCAD.
No need to offset toolpaths, as it does cutter comp. Just draw all your parts as a single polyline, and include a leadin and leadout, and the code will include the cutter comp. You can also ramp into the cut. There are quite a few options, and it's easy to use.


If I had the time and money, I'd like to get a copy of ProgeCAD (AutoCAD clone, $350) and port the macro over to that to make it accessible to more people. Unfortunately, it's not an option right now.

CAM Craft
Tue 11 September 2007, 01:58
Hi all

Ok I want to find out your opinions AutoCAD 2008 LT VS Rhino 4.0?

I’m not interested in the 3D work. All I want to do is draw arcs, lines, polylines, group objects and offset polylines (in basic). I will want to create my own tool paths (2.5D). From here I will make my own gcode.

Then second question is any one using a reliable file converter that converts ADOBE illustrator and freehand files into CAD format dxf or dwg files? Please send me recommendations/links.


Gerald D
Tue 11 September 2007, 05:34
For those that don't know it, CAM Craft is the home of the original MechMates, and SD is my son, Sean.

Tue 11 September 2007, 12:19
For 3D surface modeling Rhino beats AC by a long shot. Rhino has a CAM plug-in which I have not used. Rhino will export surfaces to other CAM software in many formats.

Corel Draw will export .dxf and .dwg

Tue 11 September 2007, 12:32
I just reread your post sorry you said you are NOT into 3D ;-). Rhino will still do everything that AC will in 2D and I think it is easier to use and cheaper. I have been using it for a long time. I also have AC because Rhino’s old version was not good at blueprints. V4 has some very good blueprint tools. I seldom even open AC anymore, only to retrieve old files.

CAM Craft
Tue 11 September 2007, 23:13
Thanks. I have an issue with corel draw sometimes. The dxf that is exported is in splines and 50% of the time its distorted from true shape. Maybe there has been a update in software. It would be good for me to learn 3D in future, wish i had time.

Please keep your comments coming.

Wed 12 September 2007, 04:18

I find that every time you covert a file from one format to another or even different versions of the same software there can be problems. I am no fan of Corel Draw but I have used it because sometimes it was better than nothing.

I’m not sure we want rehash the many fine discussions about CAD software that you will find on forums such as CNC Zone or BoatDesign.net. As I understand it this forum is for discussions dealing with the MechMate.


Wed 12 September 2007, 08:45
Hi Sean

The best program I can reccommend for this job is Enroute3 - as both a drawing program, and G-code output (it has drivers for MACH and Shopbot).

It handles the input of *.ai files well - ie does not change the splines and bezier curves to individual line segments but keeps them as radiuses. It can also handle a large range of import formats, namely .ai, .bmp, .scv, .dwg, .dxf, .fs, .plt, .stl, .3ds, .mmr, .mmo and .cnc (g-code scan). I have to admit I dont know half of those formats but it is possible your clients may work with them and would want work cut from their software.

For Freehand its best if the client first changes them to .ai if you dont have Freehand to convert yourself.

I do most of my 2D drawing with DesignCAD (http://www.imsisoft.com/faminfo.asp?fam=2) 17 - an affordable package with more than enough capability for most CNC work - I think I saw a package at Incredible Connection for about R700 recently.


Wed 12 September 2007, 20:54

You said you wished you had time to learn a 3D program. A couple of years ago, I bought a book that taught me how to use Inventor. I would study it at night for an hour or two and in just 3 or 4 weeks of working the exercises, it became pretty easy. Heck, if you aren't trying to build complicated assemblies and only wanted to model stuff that the Mechmate could cut, it wouldn't take more than a couple of weeks to learn at the most. You definitely need the book to get started though. I ordered it online and it had a CD which containted a student copy of the program in the back. I think the cost was $30 or $40. Later I took a class on Solidworks and the transition was fairly easy. I love solid modeling.

CAM Craft
Wed 12 September 2007, 23:44
Hi Alan

Thanks, I will look into Enroute3. Are there agents in Cape Town? In the mean time I will email them direct.

You say you use designCAD to draft. So does that mean you design your “toilet seat (natwood)” on it then take it to Enroute3 to generate tool paths and code. Why not just use enroute3? Are there pros and cons?

CAM Craft
Wed 12 September 2007, 23:46
Hi Doug.

Thanks, for advice. My old man is going to like your comment. One day I will get there….

CAM Craft
Wed 12 September 2007, 23:53
What do others say about Enrout3?

Can you compare it to ArtCAm (http://www.artcam.com/) and Vector (http://www.centriforce.de/en/index.php4)?

Thu 13 September 2007, 00:42
Hi Sean

Currently we dont use Enroute at work because our CNC's use their own system of generating code - we have to import the dxf directly into it. I have used Enroute when working on the Multicams and will be using it on the MechMate.

I have always worked first in DesignCAD then into Enroute because that is how I was taught - once the machine is up and running I may well change my method.

Sat 15 September 2007, 20:15

99% of my work is 2.5D and for that I have been using DesignCad 17 and Vector. I have found DesignCad easy to learn and for laying out parts on a sheet very easy to copy, rotate, drag and drop parts onto my sheet. Once I have the parts drawn and place on my sheet I then export a dxf file which I then open in Vector. Once in Vector I select my starting point and cutting secquence. Next I offset to compensate for my cutter then set my cut depth and depth per pass. Once this is done I generate my code. At the present time I am exporting Shopbot code but I am in the process of building a new controller and once finished will be using Mach software. Just to get the feel for the Mach software when I do a file I will generate both the Shopbot code as well as the G-code for Mach. I will then just run the file in Mach and so far the G-code generated from Vector seem to work just fine in Mach.

In one of your earlier posts you stated you draw your offset tool path in your cad program and just use Vector to connect Z and write the code. Any reason you don't use Vector to automatically generate your offsets and cutting depth?


CAM Craft
Mon 17 September 2007, 00:01

DesignCAD seems to be a preferred software package with a couple of guys. Can you draw tool paths (offset of true profile) and set their depth with it?

Why I want to do my own tool paths, is because I have a reference on what cutter I used if there is a repeat job, if the cutter breaks I can get a xy point and reset machine plus restart very close to where the problem was. Then 6 years ago I couldn’t figure out Vector.

Some people like to use sheetcam now instead of Vector

Gerald D
Mon 17 September 2007, 00:48
. . . Why I want to do my own tool paths, is because I have a reference on what cutter I used if there is a repeat job,. . . . . .

In other words, to save the whole job in one file in one place. (Sean doesn't really bother to save the G-code or SB-code files because those files are very quickly created by Vector.). All the stuff worth saving is then in the CAD file (dxf/dwg/etc.) and that is where one has to start when a client comes back 2 years later and wants a repeat order with some revisions.

Mon 17 September 2007, 18:09
Gerald and Sean,
If saving the work files in one place is really all you require ( unless I am missing something) why not just archive ALL the files you used including the gcode, source files, quote files, notes, picture of the finished product and anything else you want. These could be organized in a directory structure, archive file (such as .rar or .zip) and then stored on magnetic or optical media for later retrieval.

CAM Craft
Tue 18 September 2007, 00:18
i do save all the code. but that changes often. best to keep a working visual

CAM Craft
Tue 18 September 2007, 02:21
Could the DesignCAD users please send me a dwg or dxf drawing with the following:

Spline, polyline, circle and a explode spline and polyline.

I want to see what happens when I bring it into AutoCAD and Vector. Normally with Turbocad and sketchup the exploded arcs, polylines and splines turn into straight lines rather than smooth flowing curves when opening them in AutoCAD.

Then can I still set a height to an offset tool path with designCAD?

Sat 01 December 2007, 06:31
Sean, if you can still get it, try out the free ProgeCAD. virtually an AutoCAD clone (2D only though), and should do what you need.

DesignCAD has always been a great CAD value, but I haven't used it in years (since switching to AutoCAD), so can't tell you for sure if it will do what you need. I'd download the demo and try it if you haven't already.

Marc Shlaes
Sat 01 December 2007, 15:10

There is only one thing that bothers me with your post. And... I'll admit that it may be just be me... but here goes.

[Lot of "ifs" coming]

If ProgeCAD, free version, isn't going to be around ("if you can still get it"), I personally wouldn't even begin to try to learn it -- unless one was already an AutoCAD master -- and it truly was a clone down to the tiny details of the User Interface.

Having been in the software world most of my career, most of the cost of a piece of software is the effort you expend to learn it and to unlearn it when it is time, for whatever reason, to switch to something else.

Therefore, to me anyway, free isn't really free. I would rather stick with a solution that I believed would be around.

Again, only my opinion.

Sat 01 December 2007, 20:07
Sean D and Folks.
In response to "Normally with Turbocad and sketchup the exploded arcs, polylines and splines turn into straight lines rather than smooth flowing curves when opening them in AutoCAD."

What you are experiencing is 3d data being translated to 2d data - and not well. In an effort to keep this post simple, I will try to offer up my experience with getting 3d stuff to usable 2d stuff.

AutoCad will create 3D shapes and volumetric solids well - if based on a know curve/vector data and not a spline data. Spline will be addressed later. The best way to get a "slice" of that 3D shape out intact is to "snap shot" the slice into a new 2d plane, and convert it to a closed polyline. (essentially, taking sections of the shapes you want to cut out. As long as the slice is a CLOSED polyline, it will stay true to drawing. - sometime tracing the slice as a new native polyline is easier, quicker and smarter than trying to get the original content to work. - Then, copyclip that into a new DWG file with that shape alone and export as the file as a dxf to get into LazyCAM.

A spline is a variable curved line that the NODE of the curve holds the data and not the arc itself. First, you must draw that spline in a 2d plane and then get that 2d shape into one of the native x/y UCS planes that autoCAD defaults to. If you don't, that spline will turn up in all sorts of strange places in the 3d world. If your lost, get really familiar with the ALIGN command in AutoCAD.

2nd, when you explode a spline it either doesn't explode or it turns into little lines segments based on the default setting in the control panel of AutoCAD. IF the shape your cutting is large enough, you can change the segment length from a preset (i think is 16 segments per line upto 128 segments per line) add enough segments and that straight cutting almost eliminates itself. Ellipse's are neither a spline nor an arc in autocad. They are an entity. They will NEVER explode and don't like to be exported. The best option for an ellipse is to draw it in another program that holds the EPS type vector data and exports it well... I use Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw! to get ellipses to the router table and works really well.

The really great way to get 3d drawings and models to the table and hold all the native data is to really use a good translation program as your 3rd party go between. The great high end choices area Rhino and 3dstudioMAX as your final exporter. These 2 programs have direct translation from AutoCAD and handle NURB based geometry as their native modeling environment. The easy thing to know is that NURB based (rhino, 3dmax) geometry handles curves and 3D space far better than a Vector based (autocad, turbocad, vectorworks) geometry program.

It all comes down to how complex your model is, but if you making smooth 3d carvings, then you will definitely need a nurb geometry program. There are many programs, including artCarve and others that are affordable.....

Like Marc referred to earlier, spend the money and learn a good program that will be around. I have been using AutoCAD since 1987 and interface has not changed much in those 20 years - plus, upgrades are always cheaper than a new program license. I am actually looking at purchasing a license of Rhino or Enroute3D for just this reason to get my models to the table with the geometry intact. I'll keep you posted on my findings.


Sun 02 December 2007, 02:04

I would highly recommend you trying Rhino.
(A) Rhino was developed by Mcneel Associates who originated by creating plugins for AutoCad. Consquently, Rhino is very closely related to Autocad and you should pickup in no time if you know Autocad (I used AC prior to Rhino). In fact I beleive that after Rhino 4 was recently released, AC realized that Rhino was a direct competitor (and not just a helper application) and they dropped mcneel from their developer program.
(B) Rhino has several CAM plugins to chose from (I use RhinoCam from Mecsoft).
This program is very good, and for doing 2D work, you would only require RhinoCam Basic (as opposed to RhinoCam Pro) which is priced very reasonably.

Basically the workflow is.
(1) Draw objects in 2D that you would like to cut
(2) Select the objects
(3) Select a MOP (machine strategy) In most cases you would be looking for a "Profile".
(4) Configure the MOP (i.e. selecte a bit, Depth of each pass, ramp in, ramp out, etc)
(5) Generate and Simulate (simulation is done in 3D on screen showing the bit and actual material being removed, etc).
The you can export the GCODE file when you are happy.
You never have to leave Rhino.

If you purchase RhinoCam Basic from Mecsoft, you will get Rhino 4.0 at a discount. All of the above are available for 30 day free trials.


CAM Craft
Sun 02 December 2007, 22:27
Thanks guys. Lots to try out and think about

Mon 03 December 2007, 15:31
Quick consolidated reply to all the previous qoutes.
- I know 3d...I almost work exclusively in 3d modeling space whether in Inventor, solidworks, AutoCAD or Rhino. My challenge has been getting those 3d models out as a 2d "splined or nurbed" entity without facets. Enroute 3d and Rhino have been the only programs I have used to do this well. I don't own a licensed copy of either and I plan on buying one of them.

Sean - Rhino supports 3d...AutoCAD LT does not....Get 3d capable software. You won't be sorry you learned. Enroute3 has A LOT of great CNC output options. A truly amazing tool bit and path interface that makes sending files to the table a breeze.

....back to wiring that darn kitchen project.

Gerald D
Tue 04 December 2007, 00:22
Sean_R, have you had a look at Vectric (http://www.vectric.com/)'s products? I am personally not up to speed on all these issues, but the reports on Vectric are excellent. I actually met Brian & Tony in England 2 years' ago and realised these were guys to be watched. They have developed some very useful (and user-friendly) software recently.

(PS. AutoCAD LT does a 3D toolpath quite happily - it doesn't do solids, renders, extrusions, etc, but can handle "wireframes" in 3D space)

Tue 04 December 2007, 06:58
Yes, I have been quietly watching the Vectric software...mostly on the Shopbot forums for feedback. They are in the consideration. I apologize on the the misquote on AutoCAD LT.....I usually only deal with Extrusions and Solids, thus forgot it does to 3d toolpath and "faces". I've working in solids for so long I "forgot" there are still other ways of doing 3d!
Of course, everything I have been doing here in the shop hasn't stopped me from producing good parts. I am just looking for an "easier" way that won't require ME at the computer generating a file for the table. :)

Older Dog...hard to remember & learn new tricks.

Sean R

Tue 04 December 2007, 09:25

I downloaded all the Vectric products and they are very, very, good at the CAM functions, however I really do not like the CAD Interface (which are very important to me). It is hard to explain, however when you have lived inside a CAD modeling system like AutoCad or Rhino for such a long time, when you go over to a more widget based interface like Vectric (or Artcam or Illustrator for that matter), it seems just a bit off. I just feel like I am constantly moving bits around and stretching things and that everything gets all jumbled up, however most of this is probably related to lack of practice. But in my mind, there is a clear different feel to AutoCad and Rhino, I think it is the same feeling of the difference between Windows and Linux, if that makes any sense. While one seems more easy to use on the surface, in the end, I look for power and consistency. I can say with confidence that if you like AutoCad, you will Love Rhino, it is pretty much the same interface except costs less, does some more (i.e. Rhino 4.0 3D features vs Autocad LT) and you would have very little learning curve, plus benefit of having abilty to plug CAM right into the system through a third party plugin.

Greg J
Mon 21 July 2008, 14:00
I am actually looking at purchasing a license of Rhino or Enroute3D for just this reason to get my models to the table with the geometry intact. I'll keep you posted on my findings.


Sean (smreish),

I'm thinking of buying a new cad program because my AutoCAD 2000 is not working right in Vista. I'm looking at Rhino 4.0 and now after reading these posts, Enroute3D.

Did you ever make a decision on Rhino or Enroute? Any recommendations?

Mon 21 July 2008, 14:22
I'm glad you asked.
I found that I was able to use my current license of AutoCad for the 3d part and then export to Vectric Cut3d. Actually, I have recently issued a purchase order for the entire suite of products...$$$. :) It should arrive next week. I will keep you posted.
I have used Rhino in the past it's really very easy to use as well. Additionally, Rhino does have some nice export features that AutoDesk products don't.
Good luck

Greg J
Mon 21 July 2008, 14:36
Thanks Sean.

Think I'll ask the boss to cut me a P.O. tonight. I want to purchase Rhino 4.0 and Rhinoart.

normand blais
Tue 22 July 2008, 16:30
This is the link to all of rhino ressource from boat building to jewel, shoes, bikes .... Some are free some not. http://www.rhino3d.com/resources/default.asp?languageo=&language=en
It might tip the scale toward rhino.

normand blais
Wed 23 July 2008, 05:11
free on line nester http://www.rhino3d.e-cnc.com/

Greg J
Wed 23 July 2008, 07:05
Purchased Rhino 4.0 and Rhinoart last night. :)

Fri 22 August 2008, 08:36
Well Greg, been a month since you have purchased the rhino+rhinoart, how is it going? is it simple and time saving to use this combo? what tasks don't you do with these two?

I'm also after some piece of software that will make the cad/cam be in tune, and at a reasonable price too.


Greg J
Sat 23 August 2008, 07:40

It took about 1-1/2 weeks for the CD to arrive, so I've only been working with Rhino and RhinoArt for 2-1/2 weeks, in my spare time.

My background is with AutoCAD 2000, so I wasn't learning drafting/modeling and the other basic concepts. Just the programs.

Rhino 4.0 has two learning manuals (level 1 and level 2). Level 1 is the basic lines, curves, layout and general drafting. I got bored about 1/2 thru and jumped to the level 2 manual. I'm about 1/3 of the way on the level 2 manual.

My quick impression of Rhino 4.0 is very good. It's an intuitive and fun program to learn and use. Will do everything and more, than AutoCAD 2000. I don't think my learning with Rhino would be any different than converting from AutoCAD 2000 to AutoCAD 2008 (whatever the latest version is).

RhinoArt is a different story. A very easy program to use and seems to have the functions I'm looking for, but it crashes allot. Simple raster images (black and white, line drawings) convert over to a vector format nicely. Complicated multi colored jpg photos crash my system. Probably just a lack of memory issue on my computer.

Overall, the learning curve is well worth the price/cost differential to convert from AutoCAD to Rhino.

Legal crap: I don't work for Rhino or any software development company. The intension was to give my impressions/recommendations of a CAD program. A good CAD program (it doesn't have to be Rhino) will make better end products for anyones CNC router.

normand blais
Sun 24 August 2008, 13:07
If someone plan to buy rhino or the other cam add on bundle ,these guys are cheaper than mecsoft or rhino.

Thu 04 September 2008, 15:14
Low cost 2D DXF2Gcode Conversion programs and CNC projects..

Greg J
Thu 20 November 2008, 06:34
I thought I should add a comment about the learning curve with Rhino 4.0.

I have had no problem learning Rhino and my opinion is there is a short learning curve. The tutorials and help menus are very good. I'm sure there is a Rhino forum somewhere, but I never needed it.

I've watched another individual who was very good with 2D (I forget the CAD software) take less than a month to master 3D. The 3D model that I saw was of a boat hull. If you can model a boat hull, you can model anything.

Maybe that individual (hint, hint, Marc) could give his thoughts.

Marc Shlaes
Fri 21 November 2008, 00:49
Well "master" 3D might be just a bit of a stretch. I was a pretty good 2D user of TurboCAD and I was asked to create some models for boat hulls as Greg mentioned. That just might be a bit of an ambitious goal for someone new to 3D but I did it. Of the 10,000 functions that Rhino can do, I probably know 50. But, as stated, those 50 got the job done.

To really work your machine, you have to be able to effectively model your designs. I wholeheartedly can recommend Rhino for this purpose. Jump in you and you will be rewarded with more design capability than you thought possible.

I am happy to answer specific questions. Ask away!

Wed 24 December 2008, 11:17
Hi all,

I have been using Rhino since Rhino was version 1.0. I noticed that Rhino is more for items like Boat hulls and such than any other program in it's price range. I also find it quite easy to model a boat compared to most other software as the loft command is much better than some other programs (Autodesk software). I plan on using it with Aspire software for my CAM applications. You can probably tell I use my CNC to make model boats. I was contacted by an Aspire sales rep last week. He informed me that they have a cam plug-in for Rhino. After I researched this so called "plug-in" I noticed they partnered with the people that wrote RhinoCAM and the plug-in is the same one. The only reason I mention all this is because I can get student pricing on such items and it makes all the difference for me to use these than any of the other programs such as Vectric products which I highly recommend.
The guys at Vectric are great and their products are top notch if not a little tough to get used to.

I am not affiliated with any program or groups and use my equipment for my own enjoyment. I have a lack of ability with normal tools and can program computers to do it all for me so why not have some fun.

Wed 24 December 2008, 19:19
I just received in the Post today all of my new Rhino suite. Rhino 4, Rhino Cam and Rhino 4th axis.
I let you all know how quick I can learn Rhino again. I haven't touched since it's first release back in 98? or something like that!
...now where is that darn instruction manual:p

Wed 24 December 2008, 20:29
That was when I started learning Rhino as well. College was a great time to not go to class to learn CAD programs instead

normand blais
Thu 25 December 2008, 08:37
Hi Jason
We heard lots of good things all over about Vetric Aspire Now that they have a plug in with Rhino and Mecsoft's Rhinocam it might become even more interesting. Try to get some links from sales rep, to this great plugin because there is no mention of it in either Rhino ,Rhinocam or Vetric aspire web sites.
Normand Blais

Thu 25 December 2008, 09:24
I was informed it's not the same thing that the foreign sales rep was pronouncing it incorrectly it is Alibre they partnered with Mecsoft and the software is just RhinoCAM with some basic parametric CAD functions added. I'm trying the Demo ATM it looksl like it has good toolpathing. Since the demo does not allow it to be exported or saved to use in G-code it just looks pretty :D Vectric's Aspire is just great to begin with but unfortunately I was misinformed by the sales rep.

normand blais
Thu 25 December 2008, 09:49
Ah those sale's rep working even on holiday . Anyway it did not make any sense Vetric aspire is a cadcam software why would they need to plugin with
Rhino (cad) or mecsoft (cam)

Thu 25 December 2008, 09:59

We're men.......Neeeever admit to reading the manual:eek:

normand blais
Thu 25 December 2008, 10:30
What manual???:confused:

Thu 25 December 2008, 10:44
I just asked where the manual was....I wasn't really going to read it! :) Merry Christmas.
I have about 10 manuals in front of me trying to located the battery hatch for all the santa toys that have arrived at the house.

Back to kids and xmas joy.

Thu 25 December 2008, 21:12
The sales rep I got must have been trying to get a bonus or something. I would call Rhino more of a surfacing CAD as that's what it's good at. Which is great for working on the things I like to mill.

normand blais
Fri 26 December 2008, 13:02
Hi Jason
Your right Rhino is a nurbs modeler, not very good at meshs editing. In Rhino when your nurb model is done it is converted to a mesh for toolpathing

Did you try Aspire , I look at the site but did not try the software yet. It look like a kind of high field bitmap, raster to vector software. Put in a picture and it draw the contour and with sculpting pull and push tools you work the volume of your relief. I think Artcam is like that also.It is easy and intuitive . Rhinocam came out with Rhinoart similar approach. These work with mesh and is different than working with nurbs

I had some peoples get me to machine their models made in ZBrush, they are mesh and Rhino take for ever to slice them. These mesh are to big to be converted to nurbs, then rhino could have slice them easily. Zbrush apparently wont slice, so say the kids who send me their monster models. I have try Zbrush http://www.pixologic.com/home.php and shown the basic . It is light year from anything else, different, very intuitive. Look at their galerie of course lots of monster but lots of beauty to. There also is lots of tutorial on youtube for it . For a sculptor it is a great way to work never will Aspire aspire to this level. But Zbrush dont have a cam ,and is not like Aspire a high field bitmap, raster to vector software

All of them have strong points We have to know what we want to do first then what the software can do to chose right. Also there is the cad or design, and the cam aspect to consider and also the price.

That is where it get confusing. What software to do what? Would Aspire be good at precise work with acurate matching parts? Rhino dont handle mesh to well yet...Artcam I dont have a clue...

Would be good to have a objective talk about software not from sale rep but user who design, toolpath and machine

Normand Blais

Fri 26 December 2008, 14:10
I am interested in hearing what others are using also. I have a copy of ArtCAM and I downloaded a trial version of Aspire. They each do their thing a little different. I am still in the learning curve on both. I think I will be buying Asprie because of its price.

Fri 26 December 2008, 19:53
I have the demo of Vectric's Aspire, Vcarve pro, and cut3d. The cut 3d program is nice Vcarve and Aspire are quite similar. The Vectric products should be similar to ArtCAM as the guys that created the programs came from ArtCAM.

That sounds pretty much the way those programs work you can import a picture and create toolpaths to cut it out if you wanted. I have not played with them too much as I am tweaking my machine and adjusting things. I'm learning as I go. I find that most of the products out there will do a vast amount of things well. I just have a hard time deciding on what is easiest for me to learn in the fastest amount of time.

As for what software to use it depends on what you want to accomplish and what you have to work with. I find that I tend to use any CAD style programs to do the majority of my setup and the CAM programs just to generate G-code. I know that's not the best way to do that as I should be using the best parts of both to make life easier and faster.

Gerald D
Fri 26 December 2008, 23:23
For those playing with 3D programs before actually getting their MM's into production, my standard old story. . . . .

Your quickest way to earning money is to cut boring old 2D stuff. Cut boards into shapes, preferably curved shapes, stuff that guys cannot do on table saw. Sign letters, movie sets, décor, flat-pack furniture and toys, etc.

I think it is not wise to focus on buying and learning 3D programs if you plan to go into production with a MM but don't have a market yet. If your first clients are going to want 3D stuff, you are probably going to make a loss.

Sat 27 December 2008, 08:15
For the past year I have been using the boring, yet effective Lazy Cam for all my 2d simple stuff. The Rhino purchase evolved from a well paying contract that requires our company to make "many" 3D life size statues.
The CAM options for a well suited and "easy enough" to use 4th axis package is limited, thus I chose RHinoCam.

I have access to laser scan meshes of the statues and all I am is reproducing them, adding a little fiberglass and viola! Statues.

The total investment in the 4th axis, new z-slide and software is about 6,000$ About the cost of the MM new! Thank goodness the machine paid for itself by last August. Yes, less than 6 months in my shop and it was fully paid off.

Greg J
Sat 27 December 2008, 08:42
For what it's worth ....

I may have my first, couple of paying customers. The first is a sign for a local insurance company. The second is a custom screen door. I've done no active marketing and only word of mouth.

Both are 2D jobs. I have to say though, what caught their attention and interest was the 3D leafs. Showing a potential customer a 3D sample is a good marketing tool.

A 2D sample makes a good marketing tool, but a 3D sample grabs and holds a potential customer.

You may not start out with 3D, but I'll bet, you'll be wanting to go 3D, months after your MM is up and running.

Sat 27 December 2008, 19:38
I happened to attend a meeting when Aspire was being demo'ed by the author. It seems to be a great, but high $$ for my wallet, program. If you are doing 3-d signs or architectural stuff and need more of a 3-d drawing program, that uses all kinds of 3-D clipart, and you can mesh, move, meld, filet for transition, it is a FANTASTIC program.

If you need something for 3D parts that need specific dimensions, and 'engineering' like drawings, Aspire is NOT your program.

It can fill a need to put lots of 'art' into 'engineering' drawings if you need that kind of thing. Like design drawer fronts to work in something else, then use Aspire to put sea shells and unicorns with pictures of children mixed on the drawer fronts and other pieces.

At least that is my '10,000 foot' overview.

Even the person demoing the software said he spent days getting his 4 hour presentation to work smoothly. He designed an oval plaque from scratch. Put words on it to V-cut, then put shells, and fleurdelis kinds of things. And took it all the way to g-code (actually ShopBot code since that was the conference I attended).

Sat 27 December 2008, 20:00
out of curiosity, any OSX users out there? I know vector works is available on OSX, but that's all I know really...
In the past I have used Pro/Engineer a bit, but since I moved out of NL into EC and switched to OSX I am kinda lost :)

Does anybody know a CAD program that is parametric by design? I did try Sketch-Up one day, but that feels like MS Paint compare to Adonbe Photoshop and I don't call that really a serious tool. But I do like that fact that I can build something on my computer and know it will work.


normand blais
Wed 31 December 2008, 07:57
Your right Gerald for most MechMater there will be much better money making 2d stuff .And for that, all one need is a regular inexpensive cad and cam software. Doing like you say, stuff that guys cannot do on table saw.

This only for the ones who want to do 3d and live the life of poor rebel artists

Eventualy when cnc is well establish (exemple http://www.gorillacnc.com/general_cnc_pro )we will say do stuff that guy dont usualy do on their cnc. Changes are happening fast, remember wizzard software, they mature into "Pro and Master". Maybe Aspire is delcam's way to get another part of the market with pretty much the same, at a lower price? Also many cadcam software galerie are compose of 3d scans of handmade sculptures.

Long ago , the painter portraitist spend his life mastering his art.Then the photograph came and he was able
with not much artistic skill to do a perfect lookalike portrait in no time. Then there was the camera for the mass.

The same thing is starting to happen to sculpture today, anybody can get a software put in a picture and get a 3d result. If one wants to stand out from the mass there a need to be always one step ahead. That is why I mention zbrush ,here in Montreal we have a big animation industrie many peoples are working with these specialise software
actualy mostly kids and young people. It seem like they have not made the connection with cnc yet. Like cnc guy have not connect yet with real 3d software .
Normand Blais

Gerald D
Wed 31 December 2008, 09:54
The 3D softwares mentioned above enable one to do two things:

a. - Design in 3D (CAD)

b. - Machine a 3D design on a CNC machine (CAM)

It is part a. that makes the software expensive. In reality, as CNC machine owners, we will often be asked to cut the designs of our clients. We ourselves are not essentially the designers, we are only the machine operators. For that we can make better money by have good CAM programs only.

The entertainment industry designs their characters and movie sets in one family of software, the boat guys design their rudders in something else, and architects do their terrain models in something completely different again. If you have been caught up in the fun of building and owning a MM, decide if you want to be a architect, movie effects designer, naval architect, etc. before discussing one 3D CAD/CAM package over another. As I see it there is not a single 3D CAD/CAM program that stands out above the rest for all industries . . . . . . and there is not a single 3D CAD/CAM program that will turn us into designers for all disciplines overnight. These 3D packages are horrendously expensive and what you buy today is probably overtaken by something else in 3 year's time.

normand blais
Wed 31 December 2008, 10:28
Hi Gerald
I start to get the picture 2D cad for 2d stuff
3d cad different for the application desired I mention Zbrush because it is one of the leading in pure art no boat no architec no mecanic part possible with it only art .Ok it has no cam but at $599 it is not that expensive considering what it can do .Again only if you are into art;)

normand blais
Sun 01 February 2009, 08:47
Hi ,again on zbrush Yesterday I found this many year old link about cnc on zbrush forum. Here we have a forum on cnc with little info on 3d software. There they have a forum on 3d art software with very little on cnc ,but how informative . I am starting to figure out the difference between mesh, quad ,nurb ,polysurface and why the need to work with many softwares to get the best result .


Fri 29 May 2009, 06:39
Another aspect of 3D design that might be important to a designer is whether or not the software is parametrically driven.

With Rhino, you get the best 3D surfacing tools out there. The downside is that you can layer your model, but there are no relationships between the different parts of your model.

With Solidworks / CATIA you create 'dimensional relationships' within your model, so that say you decide to extend it by 2cm, the part will auto-adjust based on how you defined those relationships, with Rhino you could try to stretch but you will be most likely re-drawing parts of your model. Not a big deal as Rhino's tools are so good, but something that is worth mentioning.

Fri 29 May 2009, 08:33
The good thing is that Rhino is just plain cheap, but it lacks some capabilities, but luckily they are always not needed...

I know that solid works used to lack a lot of tools for surface modeling tools and accurateness, some people belive that's still true. I am not sure what the status is right now.

At the company I used to work we used PTC Wildfire (it was a yacht yard, nothing is straight there...) which both handles parametric constrains AND surface modeling very well.

However, looking at the sort of work the mechmate is doing I don't think anybody really needs wildfire, Solidworks and/or Rhino. (many be rhiono for the special shapes??)

However, if you are in the sort of business where you make a lot of custom sizes from standard components for example make this nice kitchen cabinet 2cm larger, then it beats Autocad and similar tools hands down for speed of development. We spend over 100K on training, tools and computers for 2 work places and our ROI was within a little over a year...


normand blais
Fri 29 May 2009, 11:17
free parametric module for Rhino http://www.grasshopper3d.com/

normand blais
Mon 21 September 2009, 08:40
South African rhino

Gerald D
Mon 21 September 2009, 08:42
Thanks Normand

Sat 14 November 2009, 04:00
I have used Rhino,Artcam,Zbrush and AutoCad. I am a journeyman machinist and tool and die maker who turned cnc programmer and 3d modeler. I have found that the job determines the program to use. 85% of the time I had to use multiple programs to get the results I wanted. I have even had to use corel draw many times in my 3d cnc projects. Example: Zbrush can produce better and finer textures such as snake skin but Artcam has nice relief features that enable an offset thickness to easily be placed on a model. So depending on the job, one may need numerous programs. How will one know when? I believe Geralds answer was suitable. Stick with basic 2d cuts until there is a real need for another software. Use that specific job to learn what software works best. Mentaly log that experience etc. Thats pretty much the way it goes.

normand blais
Mon 08 February 2010, 07:12
Here is a good link to Rhino3d tutorial and also the mind twister grasshopper plugin

Mon 15 February 2010, 14:24
Perfect analogy.
My "normal" day of creating files usually goes like this:
- autocad
- coreldraw
- autocad again
- rhino
- may vertric 3d,
then to mach 3.

Yep - do what it takes,

Mon 15 February 2010, 14:32

I got a mail from Alibre, there CAD/CAM package is on sale:

Discount till February 28th 2010
Alibre Design Pro with Annual Support and Version Upgrades (Old price $1848) Discounted to $644
Alibre Design CAM with Annual Support and Version Upgrades (Old price $1299) Discounted to $1049
Total Cost $1693

Sounds like a very nice deal.


normand blais
Tue 02 March 2010, 12:06
Same as Alibre Solidworks joint Mecsoft for cam plugin .It is the same cam as Rhinocam


Wed 25 August 2010, 11:25
So check my thinking here please, Buy artcam this covers all my design needs then get Mach 3 to run the machine.. No other software needed at this point correct?

Wed 25 August 2010, 11:33

I don't think that Artcam is a all-in-one solution for everybody. The software you need depends on your actual needs. May be you can explain first what your needs are?

Wed 25 August 2010, 13:07
Well the question wasn't really about wether artcam is the right software from a design aspect, but wether or not that's all I need in regards to taking a design from a program (artcam) to the machine (Mach 3) to final product. Do I need anything to translate from artcam to Mach 3? Do I need something else for say tool path (I believe artcam does tool path) thank 

Wed 25 August 2010, 13:51
Artcam can generate toolpath out of vectors or relief and with postprocessor which it has you can export it as gcode for Mach3.

Wed 25 August 2010, 13:58
Thak you

Wed 25 August 2010, 14:45

in that case, Artcam can generate the G-Code for you...

Sat 28 August 2010, 20:14
However, depending on what you're doing, you may be spending 10 times more than you need to by going with ArtCAM.

Gerald D
Sat 28 August 2010, 21:56
Ger, just about everyone I know has been offered a free illegal copy of ArtCAM somewhere along the line and I suspect this is the reason that we have so many newbie questions about ArtCAM. Folk want to know if it is worthwhile investing the time for the learning curve assuming that they are not actually going to be spending any dollars.

Sun 29 August 2010, 00:45
If you get a software package for free, you have to think about if you invest your time learning it, what are you going to do 5 years down stream when you want to upgrade and the package cost even more. I think it is important to buy your CAM software and that is what makes the Vectric products good. They are very capable and are reasonable priced.

Sun 29 August 2010, 07:52
...I can just say, I like the feeling of owning my software and being able to call the manufacturer for support when I need it.

Sun 29 August 2010, 09:36
Sean the only thing I hate about that is if there is a dongle involved you have to look after it like gold don`t lose it or get it stollen then you are as one can say f...

Mon 30 August 2010, 08:44
Hennie, I have felt that pain!
Couldn't agree more.

Mon 30 August 2010, 12:36
I have downloaded rhinoceros 4 evaluation and I must say I think I might just get the licence.I have designed my go-kart suspention and modefied the body with it and it is only two weeks that I have been playing with it.Quite easy to work with.

Mon 30 August 2010, 12:48
If you purchase Rhino4, then get the RhinoCAM & 4th axis module(if you need it) - you can pretty much tool anything you want.

Works exceptionally well.

normand blais
Tue 31 August 2010, 07:42
Check post 56 (http://www.mechmate.com/forums/showthread.php?p=14943&postcount=56) for a better price on rhino and rhinocam

Sat 12 May 2012, 18:47
Hi all.

I have no background with CAD and i am trying to decide for a software.

It is for my waterjet project. ( CAM software to use will be Sheetcam)

Is there a suggestion for a friendly and tested 2D CAD software.


Sun 13 May 2012, 03:13
You can use DraftSight from Dassault its free


Sun 13 May 2012, 12:29

TurboCad for drafting. This version is almost identical to AutoCad Lite

Well Tested
Well supported

Then for converting to 2d cut profiles......


Well Tested
Well supported

Sun 13 May 2012, 12:42
+1 for Vectric products, It's brilliant ! Intuitive with a good preview abilities.
I tested Aspire (which contains Cut2D features, and more).
Cut2D doesn't have a lot of features, but it's a nice and affordable software.
Cut2D does well what's meant to do.

Sun 13 May 2012, 12:44
Hi Sean.

I read some days ago about 2D CUT, and understud it is a CAM software

Does it have CAD capabilities. ??


Sun 13 May 2012, 12:47
Hi Axel.

Just to read your comment.

What about 2D CUT CAD capabilities. ??

Sun 13 May 2012, 13:07
Hi Danilo.

I downloaded draftsight this morning.


Sun 13 May 2012, 13:15
The links were for 2 solutions:

Cad = TurboCAD
CAM = Cut2D or any of the Vectric products

Sun 13 May 2012, 13:19
Ok Seam

Let me take a look.


Sun 13 May 2012, 19:52
Ŕxel and Sean

Downloded the 2D Cut trial version and you are right.

It is a very friendly software and it alone have the drawing capabilities

needed for the job.